Since roto leagues are wrapping up and head to head leagues are about to start playoffs, this column will again shift focus. There is no such thing as a long-term add at this point, because most starters will have just two or three turns remaining. Every decision from now until the end of the year is about maximizing value one day or one week at a time. The potential cost of dropping a player gets reduced the closer we get to the end, so don’t be afraid to pull the plug on any player on the bottom half of your roster if you can gain a short-term advantage by doing so.
This article will take a quick look at a few starters who have been pitching well lately, and then determine whether or not you should consider them for spot duty during the stretch run. Keep in mind, all of the pitchers analyzed here are widely available, but they also come with a lot of risk.
All stats and ownership data are current as of 9/13/14.
Some of the players I will discuss below were written up in greater detail in last week’s piece. Click here to read more.
Two Start Pitchers
Vance Worley, Pittsburgh Pirates
Editors Note – 9:22 AM. Worley was initially listed as a good play for this week, but according to MLB.com he has been moved to the bullpen. He will be replaced by Charlie Morton; since Morton has not started a game since August 15th, I would not recommend him this week. Apologies to all those who were quick to grab Worley early this morning.
Tyler Matzek, Colorado Rockies
Owned in 22% of Fantrax leagues, 5% of Y! leagues and 6% of ESPN leagues
Matzek was featured last week, so this will focus primarily on the matchups and his most recent outing. Last week, Matzek had an interesting turn. He notched a quality start, giving up just two earned runs over 6.1 innings with seven Ks. The downside was that he walked four batters in the process.
I have a really hard time recommending anybody who pitches twice in Coors Field, but the truth is that the numbers are on Matzek’s side here. Matzek’s home ERA is almost a run lower than his road ERA and with his ability to induce ground balls, he has the skills needed to succeed in Coors Field.
His matchups look pretty good also. The Dodgers are 20th in wOBA against lefties and the Diamondbacks are 25th. Both teams have decent power (LAD .129 ISO, ARZ .126 ISO), but neither team presents a scary matchup.
I would have a difficult time trusting Matzek due to my own personal bias against anybody throwing at Coors, but if you can get around that, Matzek could be a solid play for points league owners.
Brad Peacock, Houston Astros
Owned in 16% of Fantrax leagues, 1% of Y! leagues and less than 1% of ESPN leagues
Brad Peacock has pitched extremely well recently. He has only allowed four earned runs in his last four starts. Two of those outings came against Cleveland and Seattle, who he faces next week. Owners looking at pitching data from the last couple weeks will be tempted to fire Peacock up for two starts.
This is a case, however, where the risk may be greater than the potential reward. Peacock has serious command issues. His season walk rate is 4.66/9. Free passes have certainly impacted Peacock’s ratio numbers, but they also prevent him from going deep into ball games. Even during his recent hot streak, Peacock has only made it through the sixth inning once.
As for the matchups, it is nice to have two home starts, but Cleveland and Seattle are not the ideal opponents. Cleveland is one of the best in majors against right-handed pitchers with a wOBA of .324 and an ISO of .153. Seattle is also closer to league average than most people think. They are 18th in wOBA against righties and have an impressive ISO of .145.
Peacock is a below average pitcher and his matchups are not great either. I would steer clear of this one.
Editors Note – 9:34 AM: Peacock has been scratched from his Monday start against the Indians due to lower back stiffness, and his second start is up in the air right now. Since the recommendation was to stay clear anyway, this just solidifies that.
Jerome Williams, Philadelphia Phillies
Owned in 12% of Fantrax leagues, 2% of Y! leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues
Jerome Williams had a strong run of success with four consecutive quality starts when he first landed in Philly, but the party might be over now. Williams has really struggled in his last two.
Nothing in his profile really jumps out as being extraordinary. Williams is near league average in both K rate and BB rate with a K/BB of 2.19. His batted ball profile is fairly normal also, but Williams does seem to allow a lot of hard contact. His line drive rate of 23.9% and HR/FB of 11.5% do not inspire much confidence.
The matchup against the Padres is every pitcher’s dream come true. The Padres are a distant 30th in wOBA against righties. They do not have much power in their lineup, and they strike out 22% of the time also. The A’s, however, offer a much stiffer test. They are 11th in wOBA, but they have also been struggling of late.
I would normally recommend a solid pitcher with these matchups, but I do not have a lot of confidence in Williams. Both starts take place on the road, where Williams has an ERA over 6 on the season. Fantasy owners can find a better option that Jerome Williams this week.
Cory Rasmus, Los Angeles Angels
Owned in 8% of Fantrax leagues, 2% of Y! leagues and 2% of ESPN leagues
Cory Rasmus has two attractive looking home starts this week against Texas and Seattle and his ratios look solid, but DO NOT use him. Rasmus has made three starts so far, but his longest outing has been 3.1 innings. I would not recommend pinning playoff hopes on a pitcher unlikely to make it through four innings.
Streamer Options with 1 Start
T.J. House, Cleveland Indians
Owned in 19% of Fantrax leagues, 4% of Y! leagues and 4% of ESPN leagues
I have written about House twice in the last month and I absolutely love him. His skill set is comparable to pitchers owned in 80% of leagues, yet he is still very widely available. His last start may have been his best yet as he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out eight.
Despite all my love for House, I cannot recommend him this week. Houston is fourth in the majors in wOBA against lefties and House’s road ERA is more than two runs higher than his home ERA. House has two starts in championship week, so you may want to grab and hold, but he should be left on benches for this start against the Astros.
Scott Feldman, Houston Astros
Owned in 37% of Fantrax leagues, 10% of Y! leagues and 4% of ESPN leagues
Scott Feldman is the type of pitcher who is very valuable in real life because of his ability to eat innings and keep his team in the ballgame, but he is an unspectacular fantasy option. He does not strike out many hitters, provides neutral ERA/WHIP numbers and the underlying stats suggest that what you see is what you get. He is a good streamer play when the matchup is right.
The Mariners actually hit pretty well against right handers, but they are still just 18th in wOBA, with a surprisingly high wOBA of .145. Their lineup is loaded with lefties, but Feldman has very neutral splits, so he may fare better than the average right hander would against Seattle.
Feldman has also been absolutely on fire lately, making four consecutive quality starts and allowing just five earned runs with a .78 WHIP over his last 24.1 innings. Given how well Feldman has been pitching and the above average matchup, he makes a pretty attractive streamer play this week.
Josh Collmenter, Arizona Diamondbacks
Owned in 43% of Fantrax leagues, 10% of Y! leagues and 5% of ESPN leagues
Josh Collmenter is another pitcher who has been absolutely on fire. Normally, Collmenter is nothing special. He is a fly ball pitcher with a deceptive delivery who does a good job limiting walks, but does not get many Ks. Lately, however, Collmenter is on one of his infamous hot streaks. He has given up just two earned runs over his last four starts, including six shutout innings against the Giants (his opponent this week).
Overall, the home date with the Giants is not all that attractive. Chase Field is one of the more hitter friendly parks in baseball and the Giants offense is no push over. They rank 14th in wOBA against righties, but they pack plenty of power with a .137 ISO.
The fact that Collmenter has faced the Giants so recently makes me a little nervous, but he has a history of success against them (two earned runs in three 2014 starts) and is really on a tear right now. Collmenter is not my favorite streamer play this week, but if you like riding the hot hand, there are not many pitching better at the moment.
Kyle Lobstein, Detroit Tigers
Owned in 11% of Fantrax leagues, 6% of Y! leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues
*Stats referenced in this article do not include Lobstein’s Saturday start.
Lobstein has enjoyed a nice little run of success since joining the Tigers rotation and may be a popular streamer pick in deep leagues. He has a 2.78 ERA on the season, but has only allowed four earned runs over 17 innings as a starter. The MLB sample size for Lobstein is way too small to learn anything meaningful, but there are a few interesting trends.
Lobstein is a lefty who tops out at 89 mph, so he is unlikely to ever be a big strikeout guy. He was able to average close to 8 K/9 in the high minors, however. He has struggled with walks at times, but his minor league BB/9 has averaged well below 3.00 over the past two seasons. While his current MLB K/BB rate looks pretty ugly (1.60), I would expect Lobstein’s K/BB to be somewhere in the low to mid twos going forward.
Lobstein has survived so far because he has done a great job avoiding hard contact. He has only allowed one HR in 22.2 innnings and his line drive rate has been a ridiculous 11.8%. If he were somehow able to sustain those ratios, then a .239 BABIP would be quite reasonable, but nobody does that. Lobstein has the ability to be a solid MLB starter if he can keep the walks down and the grounders up, but his fantasy upside is limited by a mediocre K rate.
In the short-term, Lobstein pitches for a winning club and he owns a sparkly ERA, so some owners will surely take notice. At first glance his next matchup at Kansas City looks somewhat attractive also. KC has little power and the Tigers have had their number recently. I would exercise caution here though. KC may actually prove to be a terrible matchup for Lobstein.
Kansas City is slightly better than league average in wOBA against lefties, but it is the way that they do it that should concern anyone considering Lobstein. Lobstein avoids HRs, but KC does not have power anyway. They play small ball. Lobstein occasionally struggles with walks, and KC has patient hitters who get on base efficiently and rarely strike out. Kansas City is not your typical offensive club, and I have a feeling that Lobstein may struggle against them.
For more potential starters for this week, check out Will Emerson’s Field of Streams.